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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  September 10, 2011 2:00pm-3:00pm EDT

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the history of the 9/11 commission in "the commission." mr. shenon recounts the research and drafting of the 9/11 commission report and profiles the commission's members, including its chairman, tom kean, vice chairman lee hamilton. mr. shenon reports that the former ties with the bush administration gave the appearance of a potential conflict of interest throughout the investigation. philip shenon discusses his book with michael duffy, assistant managing editor of "time" magazine. ..
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>> they had some remarkableeef&รท
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the investigators were not there for us. >> while the commission was founded and what it did find? >> guest: it was founded as the assistance of 9/11 families and senator john mccain. they really came together to force the white house and congressional republicans to have an independent investigation of what had gone so wrong before 9/11. how was it possible this attack could have taken place? the central finding was there was an enormous disarray in the federal government dealing with terrorist threats. there were doubts that were not being connected. >> host: the white house opposed the creation of the commission for months. how long was that push back and why were they opposed to its creation? >> pushed back for many months. the better part of a year or much more than a year.
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their argument was we cannot divert the central intelligence agency and the fbi from their central mission which was preventing another 9/11. we can't force them to answer the question of the independent investigation which they need to focus their attention elsewhere and there is a legitimacy to that argument but obviously i have people acknowledging this in the book at the white house that there was a terrible political fear at the commission that it could do great damage to president bush and condoleezza rice and others at a time the president was planning his reelection campaign. >> host: y after a year did the white house capitulate and permit the creation of the panel? >> guest: not too much to use the word shane. they were shamed by the families. the mac family's mountain remarkable lobbying effort if only because they had no background in how washington works and they forced the white house and congressional
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republicans to give in and john mccain with a big part of that effort. >> host: one of my things to put on the list was i do recall him breaking the logjam in a way. the republican party was opposed unlocks that. was he as pivotal as i recall? >> guest: absolutely. his friends and even some of his enemies will tell you what was going on was john mccain wasn't seeking revenge against people at the white house. he felt betrayed by george bush and karl rove and their actions during the 2000 presidential election and he wanted to hold them to account for what they may have done wrong in the run up to 9/11 and he argues that you need an independent investigation of the tragedy like this. at the end of the day working with the families he was able to force the creation of the commission. >> host: for the two commission chairman, thomas kean lee hamilton, these were not the
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first choices of either side and neither was particularly trying to get it. tell us how we ended up with those two people in charge. >> guest: the white house chose henry kissinger. he was a controversial sweets because it was believed he was close to the bush white house and might somehow protect the president in the process. he runs an international consulting firm with clients all around world that might not be terribly interested in getting to the bottom of al qaeda fund-raising and energy companies he might represent. the initial choice for the democrats was senator george mitchell was well represented and very partisan and very smart man and the belief on the part of democrats is he would be henry kissinger's equal. this would be the kissinger/mitchell commission and might be a partisan battle between the two of them. both of them stepped out of the scene quite early on with it a few weeks. henry kissinger shortly after a showdown with the 9/11 families.
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mitchell because he is it has a law firm and can't give up his paycheck and they're replaced by thomas kean, respected former governor of new jersey without a lot of experience, no experience in washington and no experience on the issues before the investigation but hugely respected by people from both parties and lee hamilton, in many ways the democratic equivalent of someone like thomas kean. respected by democrats and republicans and one of washington's realize men and national security issues. >> host: one thing you make clear in the book is lee hamilton wanted to find out what happened but they made a strategic decision at the start not to point fingers of blame at people in our government. have i got that right? why was that? >> guest: they came to the decision early on that that was a nonstarter.
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they started pointing figures it would set the republicans on the commission against democrats and democrats against republicans. the decision was made we are not in the finger-pointing business and won't have personal accountability. >> host: when all this was happening and the investigation gets underway in late 2002 at the beginning of 2003 there was a lot of other stuff going on in the country at the time about foreign policy and very partisan and it is hard to really recreate that feeling at the time but talk a little bit about how the rest of what was going on affects the commission's work. >> guest: it was a partisan time. amazing it could be more partisan than it is now but it was a sharply partisan period especially with the knowledge the presidential election was coming up and congressional elections were coming up. members of the commission were chosen by the most partisan members of their party. thomas kean i have early on saying this was a commission that was destined to failed.
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there was no way they could make this work in such a partisan time. >> host: do some of the members you talk to feel that it was -- share that feeling that it was -- not a suicide mission but an impossible task? or did they feel this was going to work out as they began? >> guest: they thought was impossible. >> host: the dominant idea is not the choice of the different commissioners but the choice of the man who ran the commission, a man named philip zelikow. the chief of staff but his exact title was executive director. tell us about him and how he came to be chosen. >> guest: he is a well-respected historian at the university of virginia. he ran a presidential history project. few people i ever met in washington uniformly described as brilliant by others who know
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him. early on his name is thrown into the mix for executive director of the 9/11 commission. a polite fiction in washington that blue ribbon commission reports are written by the blue ribbon commissioners. that is almost never the case. usually written by a professional staff of congressional researchers or scholars and that was the case for the 9/11 commission. executive director, eventually philip zelikow was chosen and 85 other staffers and they do most of the digging and writing. philip zelikow was hired even though he has ties throughout the bush administration. he is very friendly with someone at a heart of the investigation, condoleezza rice. that is known to thomas kean lee hamilton. >> host: just what was philip zelikow's role as an adviser to condoleezza rice during the transition? >> guest: let's fact check. they had been friends at the national security council in the first bush presidency. when the incumbent president bush comes law office in 2001 he
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sent the transition team to the white house and the new national security advisor is condoleezza rice and she takes her old friend philip zelikow to be involved in her transition to national security council. many of us didn't realize until much later on in the investigation that philip zelikow's role in the transition was specifically to review the operations of the counterterrorism group in the nsc run by a man who would become famous later on named richard clark. and we learn much later on in the 9/11 commission investigation that philip zelikow recommended effectively that clark be demoted. this whole team be removed from instant access to the oval office which they had enjoyed in the presidency of bill clinton. >> host: did philip zelikow write a report that stated that? >> guest: there were memos that are highly classified. >> guest: one thing that is important to know is between the time of the transition and the
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time the 9/11 commission actually gets underway, your report in the book that philip zelikow played another role for condoleezza rice in terms of drafting a particularly important memo. >> guest: this is something not many understood until much later and many of the staff members didn't understand either. philip zelikow was the author of a very important document issued by the white house in september of 2002 that turned military doctrine on its head and said the united states could become involved in pre-emptive war. we could attack a nation that didn't pose an immediate military threat to this country. in september of 2002 that document was being written with one target in mind, iraq. as i say the author of the document at the time was anonymous. we didn't know philip zelikow had written this. that becomes known only in the final months of the 9/11 commission investigation and it appeared to pose another
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conflict of interest for philip zelikow. >> guest: >> host: the pre-emptive document in september of 2002 -- [talking over each other] >> host: when they hire philip zelikow are they aware of his role as author of the document? >> guest: i don't believe so. >> host: when did the administration make that public? >> guest: september of 2002. >> host: one of the big chunks of the book that is frightening -- striking is philip zelikow is interested in one aspect of a fairly complicated probe which is across the government. would interest you most? >> guest: he hires most of the investigators and he hires a terrific bunch of people and many of them are democrats and philip zelikow is credited for putting in place a bunch of scholars to do a lot of this work from both parties.
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>> guest: and the administration. >> host: people from the clinton administration. >> guest: that is a charge of conflict of interest that may not be appropriate for philip zelikow but he -- one team in particular is known as team free and it is the team that investigates counter-terrorism policy and it is the team that has the most important question before it which is -- one of the most important questions which is who is telling the truth? condoleezza rice or richard clark? was the bush white house in spring and summer of 2001 responding quickly and appropriately to terrorist threats as condoleezza rice kept insisting or had they ignored them as dick clark kept insisting? philip zelikow took a particular interest in the work of that team. >> host: talk about the other things about this, because for those of us covering terrorism in the tail end of the 1990s when clinton was in office and
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the beginning of the next decade, there was a change in the way the white house prioritized terror in ranking foreign policy challenges. talk to is a little bit about how the change this to the question of clark's roll. wikipedia it is remarkably 18 if you look at the bush a administration you can level criticism of the bush administration for the way it dealt with terrorism. it didn't end the bin laden threat even though it had eight years to do it. dick clark during that time when he was counter-terrorism adviser to national security council have almost instant access to the oval office and his warnings about al qaeda were delivered almost directly to the president's desk. when the bush administration comes and it appears they have a different view of the world and a different set of priorities most of them dealing with great
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power questions between the united states and russia and china and missile defense and rogue states like iraq and north korea and iran and terrorism becomes from the documentary records a secondary priority. again what we know is apparently at philip zelikow's surge in he is demoted and don't receive the attention in the bush administration they did in the clinton administration. >> host: we're talking about "the commission: the uncensored history of the 9/11 commission" by philip shenon. i wanted to talk about two of the agencies that are really at the center for a lot of people of what happened before 9/11 and what happened afterward. the fbi and the cia were probably tagged more than any federal agencies for dropping the ball in different ways. and yet they took two different approaches, the two agencies which are very political.
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took a different approaches in dealing with the commission when it got organized and started taking testimony. the fbi in many ways has more to answer for than any other agency of government for what went wrong before 9/11. perhaps the fbi more than any other agency can take the blame for 9/11. yet it decided, director robert muller decided he was going to mount a charm offensive with the 9/11 commission and be in their faces literally, giving them every ounce of help they needed, every document they needed and they really won over the commission. he was new to the scene and had only taken the dog that the fbi week before 9/11 so he couldn't really take the blame for what had gone wrong. all he wanted to do was apologize and say he was going to make things better and by comparison the cia which in many ways has a much better record before 9/11 than the fbi took a
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different tack which was it wasn't going to apologize in the same way and its director was george tenet who had been in place on 9/11 and had been in place a long time and had lots of personal accountability issues to answer for before the 9/11 commission and one other problem is the 9/11 commission became convinced over time that george tenet was having trouble telling the full truth. the perception the director of central intelligence wasn't telling them the whole truth adds to the concern that something had gone wrong at the cia. >> host: in a more personal vein why do you think robert muller and george tenet went in such different directions in guiding their agencies in their dealings with the commission? it would turn out to have enormous impact we can get to any minute but the two men, why were they approached so differently? one was resistant and the other trying to be cooperative? >> guest: george muller is responding to attacks he was not responsible for. is easy for him to say i am
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sorry this happened because he wasn't involved in the bad decisionmaking before 9/11 and muller is remarkably shy -- doesn't see much of him on the scene but behind-the-scenes he is charming and very effective as a lobbyist and over the last seven years he has managed to deflect an awful lot of blame for the fbi into -- the cia, goerge kenneth feld defensive about his own actions. he felt defensive about the agency's actions at a time he was running the agency and i think to -- perversely george tenet took huge pride over the cia's record at a time the commission wanted to blame the cia. had george tenet say we did a terrific job and the commission saying it doesn't appear you did a terrific job because we have this monumental terrorist attack. >> host: interesting character in the drama before the commission and after the commission he has written his own book.
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one thing you make clear is in the reporting that the commission which was made of democrats and republicans came to not believe george tenet to be credible. when he would come to testify and make it clear he forgot a few things and there were things he could not remember doing and what eventually recall in his memoirs. i am a little uncertain as to what the explanation is. i suspect you are too. is very best guess you can make about why his performance in front of the commission was more ragged? >> guest: i heard the allegation that george tenet represents a certain client. he wants to make a person in front of him feel good. he wants the person in front of him, wants to give the answers to the person in front of him that they want to hear. if he wasn't able to do that then, it appears according to the commission staff that his memory would fail and that those moments he couldn't remember key documents or key meetings or key
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interactions, things he should have been able to remember. >> host: the clintons were not exempt from this probing though we talk about what happened during the bush administration. what did the commission learn in general about the role president clinton played before it left office in terms of taking al qaeda down? >> guest: the belief on the staff according to the republicans wary of giving praise to bill clinton was bill clinton did want to see osama bin laden dead. he was rooting for the saudis and the cia and folks at the cia were impressed with his willingness to assassinate osama bin laden. but they were surprised to discover many people around the president were reluctant and frightened at the prospect and george tenet in particular because of the cia would come up with capture or kill operations for osama bin laden and this seriously these projects would disappear from the screen and they would learn later had to do
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with george tenet calling off the operation. >> host: the discussion about what bill clinton was able to do or not able to do there was clear confusion the commission had about whether clinton had at some point ordered the issue to kill bin laden and there was question that the record eventually made clear he had but that kill order came with a footnote. can you spell out what that footnote was? who was going to be -- >> guest: it does appear in december of 1988 on christmas eve bill clinton essentially signed osama bin laden's death warrant. you can kill him if you need to. over the course of the 9/11 commission investigation the cia folks kept saying we never got an explicit kill order for bin laden. we got legalese about maybe we could kill him if we could capture him. we never understood what he was
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talking about the clinton people said keep digging and you will find this document and at the end of the 9/11 commission investigation they come across this supersecret authorization for the desk of bin laden. it appears a few months later bill clinton signed a separate intelligence finding for a separate group of insurgents in afghanistan and seemed to call off the operation but for some period of time there was an explicit order, you can kill osama bin laden. >> host: the strangest episodes in the clinton era does involve his national security adviser sandy berger who in preparation for testifying or helping clinton testify before the commission goes to the national archives and starts looking for documents and ends up walking out of that building was not just hors originals but copies. he pled guilty to it and paid a
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fine. looking back on that episode what was he removing and why? >> guest: why would sandy berger still secret documents out of the national archives? especially crazy since basically a lot of these documents made sandy berger look pretty good. he was one of the people in the clinton white house who had been most insistent about going after al qaeda and tracking get but it does appear during a period in 2002/2003 when burger was acting as bill clinton's representative to all the investigations going on he went into the national archives to review his old files and whenever he found a particular document he would steal it and this was a document report that had been prepared by dick clark the counter-terrorism adviser in 2000 after the millennium period. during the millennium appeared al qaeda was going to attack. they didn't. berger asked clark to repair memos a what have we learned from this and what can we do
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better? clark does this and comes up with 29 recommendations. and it appears burger felt this document if it ever became public would somehow implicate him for 9/11 because there were some of these 29 recommendations that hadn't been acted upon by the time the clinton administration went out of business so people could save you act on this perhaps there would have been no 9/11. there were copies of this memo for about the files of the intelligence agencies and when burger find it in the nfc files he takes a copy and slips in his coach or his socks or gets it out of the archives somehow and steals his own notes that should have been classified and he takes those as well but it appears again he would be scapegoat in this document ever saw the light of day. >> host: your sense of whether he was taking the documents to simply study it or keep the investigators from getting it? >> guest: if he was studying it he would need five copies.
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every time he find the copy he steals it. he knows he has copies in his office because he has previously stalin them. there is this odd sequence when he goes to his office and shreds three of them. the look at them into pieces and put the pieces in his trash can. >> host: before we close on the clinton era how does the commissioner treat the clinton period leading up todd 9/11? do you think it was fair or unfair? >> guest: there are not many judgments in the report about the actions taken by either administration but it does record the fact that there was a lot of -- the people in the administration, sandy berger and george tenet and richard clarke were obsessed during the clinton years with bin laden. there is inherent criticism that over those eight years they were in office they were not able to end the al qaeda threat.
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>> host: bill clinton talked to the commission in testimony. was he sworn? did they learn anything they perhaps didn't know before? >> guest: he has a four or five our testimony. he was not required to be under oath which is not terribly surprising in terms of the history of presidential interrogation is. but apparently he really wows the democrats and republicans with his detailed memory of what went on during those years. the republicans even more than the democrats came out very impressed with bill clinton's explanation for what happened during his years in the white house. >> host: you tell the story about john lehmann who criticized for bill clinton for years and after meeting him you can repeat the story. he found clinton more impressive than he expected. >> guest: john lehmann is so impressed that bill clinton made special efforts to know everybody's name and to know the names of all the commissioners. something about their background
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even though he had not met most of them and he told the story of bill clinton who he had never met before pulling out across the room, hold on, mr. secretary. he had been the navy secretary in the previous administration and they were old friends and he tells this to his wife and i can't repeat the rest of the story. his wife says given what you said in the past about bill clinton that is a surprising comment. >> host: we are going to take a break. we're talking about "the commission: the uncensored history of the 9/11 commission". we will be back in a few moments. >> after words is available by pod cast through itunes and x m l. visit and click comcast. select which pawed cast you would like to download and listen to afterwards while you travel. >> host: our guest today is philip shenon of the new york
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times, author of "the commission: the uncensored history of the 9/11 commission". welcome back. this book is written in a wonderful past -- fast-paced hilarious style. i admire the architecture. robert ludlum and helen mcginnis. several times i am reading a teleplay for 24. tell us a little bit about how you came up with the very clever structure of this book. >> i was very worried. i felt i had to have very short chapters because i had this huge cast of characters to deal with and people from all over the world and if i don't meet these really short and discreet and won't get this done. i was worried short chapters wouldn't be seen as serious book writing. my publisher convinced me otherwise. i must admit the way people live their lives these days i don't think many people have time to get beyond the ten page chapters sometimes and it is satisfying when you do.
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>> host: having information in short bursts. tell us how long it took to write it. >> guest: i had the advantage of having covered the commission for a couple years. i considered that a lot of my research period. about a year's hard work and writing. >> host: take as behind-the-scenes. how much access did you have to all the members of the commission? some were probably helpful and some weren't. how open worthy individual members apart from the two chairman to telling the back story? how did you read that? >> guest: some are almost friends. i came to know them so well. eight of the ten commissioners we did extensive interviews for the book and many were very forthcoming in a way that they didn't feel comfortable being forthcoming early on. even the two who didn't talk to me for the book communicated with me in the past summer. what was really new and different in terms of reporting for the book was instant access
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for easy access to the staff. they have a great story to tell. >> host: you talk to philip zelikow. >> guest: he was acutely forthcoming. he didn't want to see me in person but he said he would answer my questions by e-mail and he was true to his word or over months and months he answered hundreds of questions and i will note that all the questions and answering available on the web site so if people feel i am being too tough on philip zelikow they can judge for themselves. >> host: one thing that fascinates me is you have two well-known powerful chairman and commissioners whose role are sometimes less well defined. in the book you make clear that each commissioner's role in his own way or her own way played an important role but can you talk about where they fit a little bit in terms of putting together? are they powerful? are they silent companion for people who can only make a
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difference at the margins? talk about how those commissioners fit the final product. >> guest: some were very involved. it depends how much time and energy they wanted to devote to the commission. the former number 2 official legal in one of the democratic commissioners spent half her time working on commission business during the course of the investigation. a couple commissioners were rarely seen at the commission office and had little to do with the investigation. some of them took on their own discreet investigation. richard ben beneath the was interested in subjects to understand them and as the book explains he was the size of in making sure certain chapters were written in certain ways. >> host: let's talk about the national security council. when it came to the nsc in the early. years and the role the white house played in anticipating the al qaeda attack much of this
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turns on whether you believe richard clark. he was a holdover from the clinton era. someone condoleezza rice kept on and read her about the dangers of al qaeda. >> guest: holdover from the first bush administration. >> host: take aspect to early 2001 and what will clark played in trying to keep the pressure on the white house about possible threats from terror. >> guest: clark, dr. rice comes to the new national security adviser and one of clark have responsibilities is to brief her on terrorism and apparently they sit down for a briefing and i should point out philip zelikow is in the room as well and clark makes clear he believes this is the number-1 threat faced by the national security -- she needs to concentrate on it. sandy berger makes a special appearance because he wants to
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get the point across that this is what you need to worry about. despite that it does appear that this is not of principal interest to the new national security adviser. dick clark requested an early meeting with president bush to discuss al qaeda and terrorist threats and she rebuffs him. you can do that as soon as we complete the broader review of our counterterrorism policy that would not be completed until september of 2001. the president's principal counter-terrorism aid is not allowed to brief the president on terrorism until tweet -- eight nine months later. >> host: even before george tenet was concerned during that summer about all the signals that they receiving. day of were not able to process or collate them. as the commission put the pieces together two years later, much of the discussion of the bush
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white house role comes to rest on a very secret document. tell us about one prepared for august 6th. eight dean >> guest: the president gets a supersecret newspaper called the president's secret document with a readership of 6 people perhaps. essentially it is the hottest and most important news overnight gathered by the cia. george tenet attend the meetings in the morning where this document is presented to the president in 2001 and it does appear that 40 times in 2001 before 9/11 the president is told about the al qaeda threat. one of these documents in particular presented to the president on aug. 6, 2001, a month before the attack at the texas ranch was headlined bin laden determined to strike in new s.
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the disclosure -- >> host: the proposition was important. >> guest: this was a warning that al qaeda was going to attack with american borders. it might use a hijacked plane and made reference to the fact there was evidence to suggest terrorists were conducting surveillance of the skyline of new york city. yet it appears not much was done in response to this particular -- >> host: the strong suggestion in looking at the evans is that the nsc particularly condoleezza rice, should have been more aggressive in getting the president's attention. is that a point the commission made its final report? >> guest: no. the commission doesn't make judgments. it does lay out the fact and say dick clark requested the meeting, has the long chronology of the warning specific e-mails that clark sent to rise but no judgment whether her actions were appropriate or not. >> host: let's consider the subtitle of your book which is the uncensored history of the
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9/11 investigation. talk a little bit or tell us what you think one or two most important things that you imply were censored as a consequence of the way the investigation was conducted or things that were perhaps more likely gone over that should have. >> guest: if you read the 9/11 commission report, as a reporter covering the at the time you were not able to make the statement that condoleezza rice and the bush administration had mishandled intelligence in 2001 or for that matter that bill clinton handled or mishandled intelligence properly during his tenure. it made no judgment. in the case of rice and clark, he said she said. clark says this and rice says this and we are not going to tell you who is telling the truth. the staff of the commission was pretty convinced that dick clark was essentially telling the truth and the white house had marginally ignored a lot of the intelligence that was right in front of it in the spring and
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summer of 2001. >> host: when the report comes out it was roundly suppressed, correct? it sold millions of copies. what made it unusually good if that was a fair judgment? >> guest: in the sense that it was the best written government report of our lifetime. it is a fine read and a lot of it remains to this day the definitive history of 9/11 and what happened on the morning of 9/11. in terms of some of its recommendations were probably good ones and many of them have been acted on and it is a remarkable thing that in this partisan time you have five democrats and five republicans come together in agreement on a central national security issue. there is much to be praised in "the 9/11 commission report". the problem is as the book reports, they did -- it does appear they missed a lot.
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>> host: let's talk about what they missed. fairly late in the investigation you report that some members of the investigative team had gone over to an office to look at some files from the national security agency, the electronic snooping agency in maryland. what happened and what did they find? >> guest: the nsa, largest spy agency and the government offered its archives on terrorism, al qaeda. most of the raw material used in the federal government on terrorism, use to detect terrorist threats comes from the nsa supply satellites and eavesdropping, offered up its archives to the 9/11 commission. for a variety of reasons the 9/11 commission didn't seem terribly interested in going to read through. it may have something to do with the fact that fort meade is further out of town that
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langley, virginia where the cia is located. one staff member volubly tries to do this herself. she knows how valuable those archives are and she takes on the responsibility of trying to review this huge archive all by herself and towards the end of the investigation she finds some explosive material in the archives and she let her colleagues and they have this weekend trip to fort meade to find what they missed but in many ways it is too late. >> host: this material is about iran and the connections between some of the hijackers and at least transit points through iran. what did that possibly suggest as they head to conclusion in the spring and summer of 2004? >> guest: for year-and-a-half washington was assessed by the question of was there a connection between al qaeda and saddam hussein and iraq? this researcher goes into the
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nsa archives and find there is a lot of material suggesting there might be much closer relationship between some of the 9/11 hijackers and the officials of the government of iran and hezbollah in lebanon that is tied into the iranian government and it appears iranian officials may have offered important logistical support to some of the 9/11 hijackers. they realize this is very sensitive explosive material and they frantically go to fort meade to get the rest of it and forced into the final report of the 9/11 commission on the eve of publication some of the material and some of it is found in the final report of the commission. >> host: is there any evidence that anyone after the commission finished its work went back and tried to look at all this stuff the nsa had about -- >> guest: not clear -- i don't have any sense that anybody has gone back to look. >> host: would it have been impossible for them to keep
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going worthy up against a tight deadline? >> guest: their time was up. >> host: recent days the commissioners in -- have disputed the notion that you suggest in the book that imply in the book that philip zelikow used his position to steer or kill the commission's findings. the statements are also available on your web site. is that what you were suggesting? that he was killed or steering the findings? >> guest: one thing i have had to battle against in terms of perception of the book is bits and pieces of the book leaked out of its publication. if you read some of the blotters it will sound like i said the 9/11 commission was a white wash engineered by philip zelikow and karl rove. the book doesn't say that but it does say philip zelikow -- there was at least the appearance of some remarkable conflict of interest. some of these conflict i don't believe were well known to the
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commissioners when they hired him and not well known when the commission went out of business. there are people on the staff who did influence the way the investigation was conducted and the way judgments or lack of judgments are made about certain individuals in the clinton and bush it ministrations. >> host: some people on the staff were worried about telephone calls between philip zelikow and karl rove during the life of the commission but we don't know -- >> guest: philip zelikow's friendship was well known at the beginning of the investigation and philip zelikow promised he would avoid the appearance of conflict of interest and cut out all but essential communications with his friends and former colleagues in the bush administration ending june of 2003 the phone rings in philip zelikow's office and his secretary picks up the phone and it is karl rove. what reason is there for the president's chief political
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operative to be called to the chairman of the 9/11 commission to is already under suspicion? karl rove called again the next day and a few more times in september and the fact that philip zelikow is having communication with him becomes known on the staff and there's a huge suspicion what is going on. philip zelikow and the white house say this is completely innocent and and false his work at the university of virginia and there's good reason for them to have contact. but it is an appearance problem. the staff thought it was not appropriate for philip zelikow to talking to karl rove. >> host: did you ask about that? [talking over each other] >> guest: the suspicion grows when philip zelikow calls and his secretary shortly thereafter and closes the door and apparently informs her that she is no longer to keep a log of his telephone contact with the
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white house and that adds to the suspicion. >> host: where lee hamilton and thomas kean aware of this? >> guest: on the carl rove material i don't think they were aware. >> host: you talked to them after you completed most of your reporting for the book and asked how they wrestle with these cross pressures, very partisan feelings on both sides about philip zelikow and his role as executive director. how did they way this? >> guest: i talked to them during the investigation and in detail after words. para two very experienced politicians and they dealt with difficult partisan people all their professional lives and they thought if philip zelikow got out of hand they would be able to rein him in. there were probably instances when they did. >> host: bipartisan commissions are designed to be flawed.
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are their natural shortcomings when you put an equal number of people from two parties in a partisan edge together to ask them to solve a problem? >> guest: absolutely. that is why you get pretty homogenize reports. i certainly heard it argued that better contributions from the 9/11 commission would have been strongly worded majority report and strongly worded minority report that might have allowed more detail to get to the public. overall is hard to deny general public reaction to the report was what america's thing that five republicans and five democrats can agree on anything. >> host: who drafted the report? >> guest: mostly the staff. they produced into reports over time and they were brought together to make the final report. i know the ten commissioners feel the point of pride about authorship. there are passages they wrote. the overall work was written by the staff.
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>> host: were there last minute fights at the commission office like there are in magazine offices? about the exact wording of certain parts? any that are important? >> guest: going back to philip zelikow there were a couple real battles at the end house certain things would be portrayed. one thing philip zelikow was an assistant come out of a final report was a passage written by the staff that was going to weigh how often president bush and president clinton addressed terrorism issues publicly. president clinton talked publicly about terrorist threats and al qaeda in particular and president bush on the campaign trail in 2000 and in the white house almost never talk about it. that material came out. that would have come as close to direct criticism of george bush as anything found in the commission's final report. it was on the editing room floor. >> host: the book doesn't touch on this but one of the important things were a series of recommendations about things
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that needed to be fixed. they were probably -- my memory will fade but it seems to me there were half a dozen to a dozen. can you talk a little bit, if you know this, whether any or all of this were enacted or change? >> guest: i think the majority of their recommendations have been an active in one way or another into law. the most important change they recommend it was the creation of the post of director of national intelligence. a superspeights to connect the dots and make sure the spy agencies are working together. i don't think anybody knows if that operation is really solved the problems or whether it added another layer of bureaucracy but indeed that job was created as a recommendation of the 9/11 commission. >> host: you have a wonderful line in one of the chapters about george tenet lost, bob miller won. that is a bureaucratic judgment
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as much as anything house -- els. how have they affected as agencies? >> guest: it is personal and bureaucratic. robert muller threw this lobbying effort was able to keep the fbi intact. at an end of the day the 9/11 commission gave the fbi largely a pass. >> host: it had been under pressure by some at the time to be busted up. there were members of the commission who believed the fbi should be broken up. that was a dysfunctional agency to the extreme. but again robert muller was so effective, use often described as the man who saved the fbi. that is an accurate description. george tenet lost. >> host: do we know anything more four years later about whether the fbi is really a different place in 2018 that it was in 2001? >> guest: a lot of commissioners say at the end of the day they are hugely disappointed with the changes the director robert
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miller has made. much of what they were promised has come to pass. >> host: he avoided the huge government makeover but it is not clear that the institution has changed. >> guest: exactly. the commissioners feel they were not misled so much by robert muller as by the institution of the fbi. there were forms that were supposedly being made that were not being made. >> host: on to the cia. if they won the bureaucratic skirmish what happened? >> guest: the last occupant of the job was george tenet. in that role he supposedly had oversight over all the spy agencies in the government and one of the central findings of the 9/11 commission was that didn't work and that job needed to be eliminated and replaced by a director of national intelligence and the cia director who would be responsible just for the cia and that came to pass. >> host: it is hard to know if
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that resulted in a more fleet floated, multi intelligence operation more engaged with itself than it was before. >> guest: there are people concerned is just another layer of bureaucracy. >> host: what happened? >> guest: the commission goes out of business in august of 2004. president bush is reelected in november of 2004. he removes colin powell as secretary of state to serve with condoleezza rice and she quickly sets in place her new team at the state department and names philip zelikow as her all-purpose counselor. he will have her here on all national-security issues. >> host: was that a reward? >> guest: i wouldn't say that. there are others who might. >> host: did he stay long? >> guest: he was gone -- he has returned in recent months to the university of virginia where he has a tenured job in the history
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department. >> host: looking back on the commission one of the difficult things about writing about this and i'm sure you are encountering is a lot of people are sort of amateur experts on 9/11 that you encounter. you agree this document is the most definitive account of happened. [talking over each other] >> guest: the 9/11 commission report is the definitive account. >> host: why does that event create so many -- in the history of the event itself and the investigation that followed. why has it created such a small minor industry in conspiracy theories? >> guest: it is like the kennedy assassination. >> host: be careful what you say. >> guest: it is like the kennedy assassination. when a national tragedy strikes this country there tends to be a community that forms that wants to offer an alternative explanation. it does demonstrate huge amount of cynicism about the actions of
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the federal government but my book has been criticized by people who believe 9/11 was some sort of inside job. that this was the bush administration that carried out the attack. i think my book may be a more prominent explanation for why 9/11 happened. >> host: looking back on this liberal thomas kean and lee hamilton, how do they feel about what they did and what has happened as a result and the families, want to know how the families feel about the recommendations and overall product that was created? >> guest: thomas kean and lee hamilton have a lot of pride in what they accomplished. as much pride over the fact that they could demonstrate bipartisanship in washington as over anything else. the families have a mixed response. many families have seized upon by book as explaining why there
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needs to be an additional investigation of 9/11. many of them believe they never got all the answers why their loved ones were murdered and they are pressing for that explanation. >> host: you have to take off your hat as reporter and put on an author of the definitive text. looking back, do you think the commission should have gone further in naming names and pointing fingers and saying here are the people who dropped the ball? would that have been the right thing to do? >> guest: i think the 9/11 commission producing a final report endorse the concept of no-fault government. i think you and i make our living in washington proving there are human beings who do make big mistakes and should be held accountable for them. there is a remarkable thing that all these years later not one person has been fired, not one person has been demoted as a result of their bundling of
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their jobs before 9/11 when the record is very clear that people did bundle their jobs. not only were these people not punished for it, some have been promoted as a result of it. i don't know if that is necessarily a good thing for the government. >> host: if we ever need to have another investigation of this size about this kind of thing, would you recommend we go down that road? or take the approach thomas kean and lee hamilton had of just figuring out what went wrong. >> guest: this interesting idea is what you need is a bunch of scholars and engineers and scientists and people who have absolutely no connection to washington, nothing to do with politics and let them try to figure it out. much as was done with the challenger disaster. bring in experts who know this stuff and let them go at it. that might be a way of removing these conflicts of interest, questions that pervade this
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investigation. >> host: thank you for watching. we have been joined by philip shenon, the author of the wonderful new book "the commission: the uncensored history of the 9/11 commission". it is literally a book i could not put down. i enjoyed it. it is thorough. i learned things. having covered that commission, that i did not know or just forgot but i think i didn't know them. thank you for joining us and thank you as well. >> that was after words, booktv's signature program in which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policy makers and others familiar with their material. afterwards airs every weekend on booktv ad:00 p.m. saturday, 12:00 and 9:00 on sunday at 12:00 a.m. monday. you can watch afterwards on line. go to and click on afterwards in the booktv series and topic list on the upper right side of the page.
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>> one of the great beauties of your book is the actual unfolding of the gun fight in step-by-step fashion and it unfolds in a way that seems both inevitable and a total accident that makes sense. you get to the final moment and virgil earp has the same moment i imagine george custer had when he got on top of the ridge and saw what looked like all the indians in the world down there or travis had when he realized no one was coming to save him at the alamo. what does that -- virgil says hold, i don't mean that. what does that tell us about how this event happened? >> i will repeat that i think something was bound to happen. whether it was going to involve the specific individuals or others there was too much tension and too much mistrust.
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james earp said there was a certain amount of pressure put on virgil by the townspeople that happened happened none of this would have occurred. i like virgil a lot and i ended up feeling sorry for him. i think he tried very hard to be a good lawmen. in the eyes of average americans today the gunfight at the o.k. corral involved wider --wyatt a earp doc holliday and the clintons. the others have in bumped into the background. virgil wanted to be a good lawmen and was pragmatic. he preferred giving people a chance to back away without embarrassing them or having their pride attacked. he did his best that day to led the cowboys settled down and ride out of town and finally
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felt forced to act. when he did he called on the people interested most, is two brothers and there was doc holliday who was never going to miss an occasion like this. it was a terrible tragedy that this happened and i think if things had happened differently in one or two instances, if surge ahead and been approached by couple town leaders offering vigilantes', if wyatt and tom m mclaury hadn't had fair altercation or the cowboys had not walk through town not intending to leave fast because they didn't want the onlookers to think they had been backed down and made to leave. and number of things might have prevented this but something similar would have happened sometime soon. >> you can watch this


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